This piece on Recovery Meetings was written by Jay. I think this a really good, balanced piece, which talks about the good and not so good side of attending recovery meetings. He also looks at the idea of moving on from recovery meetings which many find terrifying as well as outside therapy. I feel this accurately reflects the present recovery movement, where the 12 step type of meeting is still the type of group most people attend, at least for a while.
He also wrote this piece for my blog http://www.recoveringfromrecovery.com/left-for-deaad/ I hope we do a podcast together soon.
I attend recovery meetings much like I attend anything else. Particularly because it gives me a sense of committing to my own sobriety– even if I’m on my phone playing Tetris or texting somebody, my body is present and I sometimes do hear worthwhile things from the shares. The other reason I attend recovery meetings is to be present in the event where somebody else much like myself is looking to stay clean but isn’t exactly sure that the steps are for them. The newcomer was the most important person in the room for a while. Until the most important person in the room became whoever had the floor at the moment.
I’ve heard the steps called, “work.” Los Angeles is fond of saying, “doing the work,” which sounds a lot like a chore. It can be discouraging when you’re at your wits end and the only rescue raft you see is to “do the work,” or to be asked, “did you have enough yet? Are you willing to go to any lengths to stay sober?” It’s not a fair question as it puts anybody in a position where their back is against the wall and it creates an upper hand advantage to the person asking to more or less border abusive in their demands. Much like the child mind of the active alcoholic, the sponsor now demands assignments be done on time to show willingness. This is a great theory and “my hat is off to you,” if this works for you, because it didn’t work for me.
Early on in my recovery there was a sense of unease when I decided I would be staying clean without any program of recovery. I was disillusioned with alternative recovery programs because I recognized that many are in fact for profit when they claim not to be. The word, “self supporting,” is thrown around very loosely and unless there is a bit of investigation, which these days is readily available thanks to the internet– you might actually believe your dollar is keeping your building open. This is true. However there are many other things your money is going to that we won’t get into.
Leaving a recovery program.
The feeling of leaving a recovery program can be terrifying. You’re conditioned to believe that if you miss meetings you will drink or use again which ultimately means death. You are taught that if you don’t listen to your sponsor you’re going to drink or use again. And you are taught that your best thinking got you into the predicament you found yourself in when you asked for help. So what alternatives do you have?
First, your sponsor at best is somebody with an elementary understanding of the true natures of addiction. Trauma being the frontrunner followed closely by neglect, can be worked out with a qualified therapist, medication, meditation and a sense of connection. Meetings are an excellent way to make sober friends who have similar interests and encourage you to do better in your life. Secondly, the word God gets thrown around with the word “Higher Power,” which if you read the chapter to the Agnostics, it is a direct attack on the principles of disbelief. If you aren’t persuaded to convert to a believer many times you may feel isolated or shunned from the community. The perfect part about believing is that you can choose whatever you want to believe in. You can choose to believe that therapy is going to help you. You can choose to believe that you’re never going to drink or use again. You can choose to believe that everything that happened in your past happened for a reason and you’d like to make the best of things moving forward. Or you could choose to believe not to believe in anything and to get better in spite of. There’s no law on earth that says man needs to believe in anything.
Lastly, the steps are a great tool to becoming a better person. But they aren’t for everybody, and more importantly they shouldn’t be recognized as the be all end all of addiction recovery. There are many people who are abstinent and happy who have never looked at the steps a day in their lives. If you do decide to take the steps, you should do it at a pace where you feel comfortable with someone you feel comfortable with, not the first lunatic who approaches you in a meeting asking if you have a sponsor and if you’re “done yet.” This is your life. If your best wishes are to grow into a healthier version, then trust that your decisions are leading you into that, not somebody elses demands.
I’ve been off of drugs and alcohol for over a year now through the help of myself and the people in my life whom I’ve chosen to include in this process. I see a therapist on a weekly basis and in the beginning went to therapy several times a week. I’ve realized that relapse isn’t a monster that hides in the closet waiting to pounce on me when I’m not expecting it. Relapse is the last decision I make to leave my responsibilities when my life reaches a point I’m unhappy with. Life to me is life, it has many good and bad days to it, however there are moments I can embrace every day with people I love and feel lucky to be able to be involved with in any capacity. It isn’t about “doing the work,” or “giving up control,” its about filling your life with as many positive moments and experiences as you can have so the decision to go back to using seems disgusting and your mind creates an aversion to it accordingly.
Whatever your decision, so long as it leads to you becoming the best version of yourself that you wish to be, embrace it.